Where he once sounded like a crank, U2 manager Paul McGuinness now sounds prescient when he rails against Internet Service Provides (ISPs) and their adverse effect on the music business. He has his own reasons for being mad at them but now there’s yet another reason. That’s because Time Warner is starting to test out a new system which will charge consumers extra when they go over a certain download limit. If they can get away with it in the first market they’re testing it in, they’re likely to bring the system nationwide and then other ISPs will follow- see this Yahoo/AP report for details.
So why should you care? Normal websites’ pictures and text don’t add up to anything but if you’re used to streaming music all day (through an online station or a service like Napster or LastFM), you might get stung by the extra charges. Similarly, if you’re a video buff who likes to watch YouTube a lot or stream movies through a service like Netflix (which I do), you’ll probably gonna get stuck with an extra bill too. Admittedly, you’d have to stay on for about 5-10 hours to incur the charges but do you really want to time yourself daily on Net use (though you do need to step away from your computer now and then)?
The end result could then be that web users may shun these services or cut back on their use of them. That means that these services would also lose money and have a harder time staying in business if they start losing their audiences. If they were smart, these companies would team up to make the public aware of this coming storm and get them made enough to complain to Time Warner and any other company that tries to stick consumers with higher rates for Net access. Otherwise, you could have less and less choices for online entertainment…
And don’t think it’s just Time Warner who’s going to be watching your Net use and leaning on you if they think it’s too excessive. Comcast now seems to be going after ‘Net hogs,’ seeming to go after users who access streaming videos (i.e. YouTube).